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Pacemakers Common for Those With Dementia and Irregular Heartbeats
Date:7/28/2014

By
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People who have dementia and heart rhythm irregularities are more likely to get a pacemaker than people without dementia, new research has found.

In fact, the study of more than 16,000 people found that those with dementia were up to 80 percent more likely to get a pacemaker than those without the memory-robbing condition.

What isn't clear from this study is why folks with dementia are so much more likely to be treated with a pacemaker, said the study's lead researcher, Nicole Fowler, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

Perhaps the more important question, though, is whether some patients with dementia -- a progressive condition without a cure -- should get a pacemaker at all, Fowler said.

"We really need to take into account the whole picture and make sure patients understand the implications of the decisions they are making," she said.

A pacemaker is a device that's surgically implanted in the chest or abdomen with wires that send electrical pulses to the heart to correct abnormal heart rhythms, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Getting a pacemaker may improve the patient's quality of life, but sometimes it may have no impact on quality, and would only prolong the life of a person with dementia, Fowler said.

Fowler said that cardiologists may only be focused on the patient's heart and may not even know that the patient has dementia unless it is severe and obvious.

"We have to think seriously about the way we provide holistic care to patients with dementia," she said. "I think that if some patients understood the implications of the treatment, they might not choose it for themselves," Fowler said.

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